To mark the first International Anti-Street Harassment Day, I took part in the Washington, D.C., Community Safety Audit on March 20. Then just last week on May 5, I stepped in as a team leader to conduct another survey of the same neighborhood at night.
My experiences during this audit were somewhat similar to those I wrote about during the March daytime audit. There were fewer families, some dark places where streetlights could be added for safety, and more escalators working in the Metro station (kudos, Metro!), but generally, the route seemed pretty safe. There was some speculation among my group that we would see more rowdiness, possibly even more harassment, since the audit happened to be the evening of Cinco de Mayo, a popular night to spend at the bars. Fortunately, no one on my team saw any questionable behavior.
I wonder if our experiences in this area would have been any different if we had chosen to go off the beaten path to some side streets. Or would we have had different experiences if we had looked less conspicuous with our clipboards and note-taking? Or perhaps we were there at the “right” time that night to not see any street harassment or unsafe activity. We did see some police officers — perhaps their presence on the street deterred harassing behavior.
I had an interesting audit group: I had one of the few men taking part in the nighttime safety audit on my team, and I had some age diversity, too. Before we got started, I was talking briefly about street harassment and what we’d be doing on the audit, and one of the older women on my team mentioned that it had been a long time since she had been catcalled on the street. That comment caught me off guard, because I am so accustomed to street harassment. It made me curious to know what women of all ages were feeling about the possibility of being street harassed and what their perceptions of harassment would be.
I look forward to hearing about the experiences and recommendations of the teams from the other wards. Together, we can continue to improve the safety and accessibility of D.C.’s public spaces.
This blog will be cross posted at Gender across Borders.
– By Katherine BroendelShare on Facebook